I’ve been doing this Star Trek feature for a little while and it’s been a mostly fun experience. I’d written about Voyager here and there (prompted by suggestions in the comments) and as always, gave my honest thoughts and comments. Generally, I always felt it to be a flawed show that didn’t quite live up to the stellar (heh) Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Some commenters agreed, and I feel like others were rankled by my criticisms. I understand that no one likes hearing a show they like trashed, but I’m just telling it like it is, maaaan!
But seriously. It got me thinking to take a different angle and delve into the highlights of Star Trek: Voyager and focus primarily on the all the episodes I did like – and there are quite a few. Maybe part of it was also to give myself some credibility where Voyager criticism was concerned – I’m certainly not out to “get” the show or run it down. Ultimately, embarking on this long journey was an enjoyable experience and allowed me to appreciate the series more than I ever had, so I’m glad I did it. In re-watching these episodes of Voyager for the “Best Of” feature, I realized how much the show pushed the envelope of Star Trek in some interesting and daring ways. Some of these episodes are even among the best of all of Trek. One of my aims was not only to evaluate each episode on its own merits, but as I usually do, place it in the larger context of the multi-decade Trek mythos. I enjoy the persistent themes and recurring motifs of the franchise, and Voyager often hit these marks in thoughtful and entertaining ways.
“Caretaker” was the best and most coherent pilot of a Trek series up to that point. “Jetrel,” “Remember,” and “Nothing Human” reference historical atrocities for some very powerful drama. “Scorpion,” “Year of Hell,” and “The Killing Game” are all epic, big budget two-parters. “Meld” and “The Thaw” are effective and creepy horror stories. “Real Life” is one of the most unexpected stories of Trek and an innovative use of the holodeck. “Message in a Bottle” and “Live Fast and Prosper” are very entertaining comedy escapades. “Timeless” is my personal favorite Voyager episode and a great usage of the classic reset button story. “Blink of an Eye” is probably the best sci-fi concept Star Trek has ever run with, and “Distant Origin” also serves up some fascinating material in that vein. “Nemesis” and “Memorial” explore the horrors of war, both punctuated with well-executed sci-fi twists. And the aforementioned “Live Fast and Prosper” and “Muse” are the most meta-textual stories Trek had ever done and represent some rare fourth wall-breaking material. “Mortal Coil” is the most emotionally upsetting episode of Trek I’ve ever seen, but ultimately a powerful and life-affirming hour of drama. “Critical Care” is one of the most biting and still prescient examples of social commentary Trek has done and is similarly harrowing (and angering).
“Tsunkatse” wasn’t quite as good as I remember and probably deserves to be on this list the least (it is dumb fun, however). The comments for “Repentance” made me rethink my feelings for that episode, so it’s similarly kind of inessential. “The Void” is fairly by-the-numbers but reinforces some of Trek’s basic themes in a satisfactory way.
One of the things I found most interesting was the breakdown of episodes across the seasons. Season 6 has the most best episodes, followed by 4. I wouldn’t have expected the second-to-last season to contain the most strong ones. But by the final season, the show seemed to be running out of gas and there was that trademark listless quality of a series that’s grown a little long in the tooth. Sometimes being towards the end gives you a license to pull out the stops and get experimental, and I think Season 6 did a lot of that to mostly good effect.
Ultimately, despite its flaws Voyager had far too many strong episodes to dismiss. It didn’t quite turn out to be the Star Trek series I wanted it to be, but these episodes more than prove that it was a worthy successor.
- 4×01 – “Scorpion Part 2”
- 4×04 – “Nemesis”
- 4×08-09 – “Year of Hell”
- 4×12 – “Mortal Coil”
- 4×14 – “Message in a Bottle”
- 4×18-19 – “The Killing Game”
- 4×23 – “Living Witness”
- 6×03 – “Barge of the Dead”
- 6×07 – “Dragon’s Teeth”
- 6×08 – “One Small Step”
- 6×12 – “Blink of an Eye”
- 6×14 – “Memorial”
- 6×15 – “Tsunkatse”
- 6×21 – “Live Fast and Prosper”
- 6×22 – “Muse”
What about you? What are your favorite episodes of Star Trek: Voyager that didn’t end up on this list? (besides “Threshold,” obviously)